The Nose

Climber falls 200 feet from Camp VI to Camp V, re­sult­ing in fa­tal­ity

Climbing - - CLINICS IN SESSION - (VI 5.9 C2), El Capitan

May 2015: Greg, Bob, and Luke were on their third day on the Nose. They were on a big ledge atop pitch 26, called Camp VI, with an­other party of two. Bob led the next pitch, the Chang­ing Cor­ners, while the other party waited for them to pass. Greg had just ar­rived at Camp VI af­ter as­cend­ing a fixed rope. As Bob led above the four climbers, he ac­ci­den­tally dropped a nut, which landed on a ledge 20 feet be­low Camp VI. Luke said he’d get it in a mo­ment. Shortly there­after, Greg, for rea­sons un­known, leaned back; unan­chored, he fell 200 feet to the end of the rope he’d just as­cended. With rope stretch, he hit a ledge at Camp V, re­sult­ing in fa­tal­ity.

Bob low­ered and then rap­pelled to Greg, whom he found hang­ing from the rope three feet above the ledge. He was tied in and had his Gri­gri on his be­lay loop, closed but not clipped to the rope. The climbers called 911, and YOSAR res­cued all three that af­ter­noon. They left a fixed line for the wit­ness­ing party to as­cend to the top.

Analysis and preven­tion

When faced with the com­plex­i­ties of big-wall climb­ing, there is seem­ingly end­less po­ten­tial for mis­takes. As Bob would later blog, “… it was a small over­sight with enor­mous con­se­quences.” Even the most ex­pe­ri­enced climbers are vul­ner­a­ble to er­rors—lean­ing back on a ledge unan­chored, for­get­ting to clip both ropes through the cara­biner for rappels, clip­ping into the wrong an­chor point. Rec­og­niz­ing our vul­ner­a­bil­ity to these mis­takes, and how ex­haus­tion, hunger, and de­hy­dra­tion play into them, is the first step in preven­tion. It’s im­por­tant to stay vig­i­lant around other par­ties. The ex­tra ropes and haulbags can make it eas­ier to over­look the de­tails.

Com­mu­ni­cate: Main­tain sim­ple and clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion among part­ners. Tell your part­ner what you’re do­ing with­out mak­ing it too com­pli­cated. Keep com­mands sim­ple, straight­for­ward, and short.

Fuel: Bring am­ple food and wa­ter. Re­mem­ber, short tem­pers and slug­gish­ness can be signs of hunger and de­hy­dra­tion. Left un­treated, these can lead to mis­takes.

Good Habits: Build habits into your rou­tine that in­clude dou­ble-checks and back­ups. Snug the rap de­vice against the an­chor and weight the rope be­fore un­clip­ping from the an­chor, al­ways clip into at least one an­chor point even on a big ledge, and force your­self to eat and drink reg­u­larly. If you’ve de­vel­oped good habits, a red flag will ap­pear if you stray.

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